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Katleho Tsoku

31, Spark* SA CEO

‘If your business is not solving a problem, you have no business being in business!’

 

Katleho studied Hospitality Management at Hotel Institute Montreux-Switzerland. She spent a few years overseas before she returned to South Africa and opened a tapas and cocktail bar called BLISS. The bar lasted two and a half years, before she had to close down. Then she went through a serious phase of introspection, trying to figure out what to do with her life. She knew she wanted to do work with women entrepreneurs; help them try navigate the challenges that she faced as an emerging entrepreneur. That’s when she was approached by Spark* International in Australia to head up the South African office of Spark*, an organisation that today enables emerging impact entrepreneurs; those who are launching businesses that positively impact on society. Soon after, she launched SHE by Spark* under the Spark* International umbrella, where she advocates for female entrepreneurs who are launching ventures that positively impact women and girls. Visit www.sparkinternational.org/spark-south-africa.

On initial concerns…

There is always that fear of failure. ‘Women empowerment’ is a buzzword globally. The concern for me was that I don’t just want to be part of the hype; I want to build something impactful, something that tangibly empowers women. I have learnt that fear will always be there, and the best way to overcome it is to acknowledge it and then carry on. If I do fail, then I will take that as feedback on what to improve on. Failure is simply that, feedback!

 On women entrepreneurs…

Globally, while there is an increase in the number of women venturing into entrepreneurship, women are still facing many challenges. South Africa does need to do better in fostering female entrepreneurship. The latest stats show that a mere 4% of women are entrepreneurs that is absolutely heart-breaking and appalling. Investing in women’s entrepreneur­ship presents an opportunity to stimulate the economy, cre­ate jobs, but the current startup environment needs to be improved. We are slowly making strides, but we need to do way better. It should not be this hard for women.

On learning lessons…

There were many lessons learned from BLISS. That experience completely influenced the trajectory of my life, both personal and professional. The business lessons I got from that is the importance of building a strong network of mentors and advisors in different fields, because no one can do it alone, and it is okay to ask for help. Being superwoman is a myth!

On the biggest misconception about life as an entrepreneur…

That one has freedom to spend their time sleeping in and doing brunches and sundowners! The reality is in the early days, you are lucky if you get any sleep because even when you do try, your mind is constantly in overdrive. And most of the time, there is no money to buy toiletries, let alone do brunch! It also an absolutely lonely journey because you are on a path only you understand.

On inspiring advice…

I was once told, ‘You are perfect for your purpose. All that you are required to do is to share your gift.’ Imposter Syndrome is a thing amongst women, we never think we are deserving or are doing enough, whenever I feel it taking it over, I affirm that.

One of my favourite entrepreneurs, Miki Agrawal, says before you start a business, ask yourself:

 

  • What sucks in my world? (Identifying a problem)
  • Does it suck for more than just me? (If yes, you have a market)
  • Is this something aligned with my purpose and I can be passionate about for a very long time?

 

I live by those three questions every time I am ideating!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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